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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 12/From Allen Bathurst to Jonathan Swift - 1

< The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift‎ | Volume 12

FEB. 12, 1729-30.

I HAVE this moment received a letter from you; but it is the first I can call a letter: the other scraps were only to direct me to convey your correspondence to others, and I thought I answered them best by obeying your demands. But now you have deigned to send me one in form, with a proper beginning and ending, I will not wait even for a postday; but I have taken pen and ink immediately to tell you, how much I think myself obliged to you, and how sincerely I am ——

Well, I might end here, if I would; but I cannot part with you so soon; and I must let you know, that as to your money affairs, though I have paid off John Gay, I still keep your two hundred pounds for which I have given him a note. I have paid him interest to this time for it, which he must account to you for. Now you must imagine, that a man who has nine children to feed, can not long afford alienos pascere nummos; but I have four or five, that are very fit for the table[1]. I only wait for the lord mayor's day to dispose of the largest; and I shall be sure of getting off the youngest, whenever a certain great man[2] makes another entertainment at Chelsea. Now you see, though I am your debtor, I am not without my proper ways and means to raise a supply answerable to your demand. I must own to you, that I should not have thought of this method of raising money, but that you seemed to point it out to me. For, just at the time that scheme came out, which pretended to be calculated only for Ireland, you gave me a hint in one of the envelopes [Anglicè covers] that you wished I might provide for my numerous family; and in this last you harp upon the same string. I did immediately propose it to lady Bathurst, as your advice, particularly for her last boy, which was born the plumpest, finest thing, that could be seen; but she fell in a passion, and bid me send you word, that she would not follow your direction, but that she would breed him up to be a parson, and he should live upon the fat of the land; or a lawyer, and then, instead of being eat himself, he should devour others. You know women in passion never mind what they say; but, as she is a very reasonable woman, I have almost brought her over now to your opinion; and having convinced her, that as matters stood, we could not possibly maintain all the nine, she does begin to think it reasonable the youngest should raise fortunes for the eldest: and upon that foot a man may perform family duty with more courage and zeal; for, if he should happen to get twins, the selling of one might provide for the other. Or if, by any accident, while his wife lies in with one child, he should get a second upon the body of another woman, he might dispose of the fattest of the two, and that would help to breed up the other. The more I think upon this scheme, the more reasonable it appears to me; and it ought by no means to be confined to Ireland; for, in all probability we shall, in a very little time, be altogether as poor here as you are there. I believe indeed we shall carry it farther, and not confine our luxury only to the eating of children; for I happened to peep the other day into a large assembly[3] not far from Westminsterhall, and I found them roasting a great fat fellow[4]. For my own part, I had not the least inclination to a slice of him; but, if I guessed right, four in five of the company had a devilish mind to be at him. You begin now to wish I had ended, when I might have done it so conveniently. Well, adieu.

  1. This alludes to a tract of the dean's, entitled, "A modest Proposal for preventing the Children of poor People in Ireland from being a Burden to their Parents or Country, and for making them beneficial to the Publick." The dean had proposed many useful schemes, which having been neglected, he satirically and humourously proposed to fatten and eat the children of the poor, as the only remaining expedient to prevent misery to themselves, and render them of some benefit to the publick.
  2. Sir Robert Walpole.
  3. The parliament.
  4. Sir Robert Walpole.